Funcom's Martin Bruusgaard, who was lead designer on MMO The Secret World but left in a recent round of layoffs, has shared his thoughts on the game's failure to thrive.
"It's a shame to say, but I think it's very, very few cases where you can sit down and make the game that you really want to do, and it turns out to be a success," he told Penny Arcade.
"Unfortunately I think that in order to be a success in today's market, you need to make the game a bit more commercial."
"I think you have to consider what sells. You just have to. Not doing it is a huge risk. Yes, you might get lucky and everything works out great, but I would not do that again."
He admitted that omissions like the lack of classes and levels, plus strange quests might have just been too unfamiliar to players who were familiar with more traditional MMOs. And while he likes the "twist" Funcom put on the genre, the focus should have been on the commercial. He also acknowledged that the release window was tricky.
"I think it was a very difficult window to launch in, between Star Wars and Guild Wars and TERA. A lot of big MMOs out there. I think we also could've done a better job when it comes to marketing and making sure people know there is a game called The Secret World. I think too few people had heard of it, even though again, our numbers seemed like we were tracking really well."
While outwardly Funcom has remained confident about the game's player numbers, Bruusgaard described the internal reaction to the game's release.
"I could tell by the sort of frequency of certain meetings and certain people talking. You sort of get this vibe that something is wrong," he explained.
Bruusgaard also reported that almost the entire team were placed on furlough, an enforced leave lasting 30 weeks that comes with minimal pay. "I think it was five people who weren't put on forced leave." Bruusgaard quickly found a job with a software company.
"I didn't want to make a thing out of it. I was afraid it might hurt the game, or people who are anti-Funcom would get more fuel for the fire, so I just sort of wanted to fade out."
GamesIndustry International has contacted Funcom for its comments on the story.